Sunday, April 02, 2006

Importance of Grades

How important are grades?

For me, the grades I received had a direct impact on my finances, as my employer reimbursed 100% of tuition and books for an A, 90% for a B, and 70% for a C. I had to pay a few hundred out of my pocket because I received two grades of B+.

Getting a 3.9 GPA placed me in the top 20% of my graduating class, which earned me an invitation to the Beta Gamma Sigma Honors Society. So what good is that? I get to mention my membership in my resume, for whatever that is worth. The Beta Gamma Sigma San Francisco Area Alumni Chapter offers a LinkedIn Group which enables fellow members to search each others profiles and contact each other directly via LinkedIn. The chapter also offers interesting events such as a career panel. So far, I've had no use for any of the benefits of being a member of the society, but perhaps the benefits will be useful at some point.

Do recruiters care about grades? According to a recent article in BusinessWeek and comments on Harvard Business Reviews' Working Knowledge site, it appears that recruiters do use grades as one factor for evaluating recruits.

Do grades alone provide a foolproof indicator of success in business (however you may define that, e.g. contribution to the bottom line)? Of course not. You may find in the long run that your time was better spent getting to know your classmates better as opposed to doing extra work to earn an A- rather than a B+. The classmates you meet may be connections which enable future success. On the other hand, if you're aiming for a B rather than an A in a class which involves groups projects, your lack of drive for an A may irritate your teammates and cut off potential future opportunities. I personally wanted my classmates to remember me as a person with high standards, who would do whatever it took to get the best grade possible without making any ethical compromises.

Some argue that grades provide the wrong incentive for students, and that students should focus on learning as opposed to acheiving high grades. While I can agree that there could potentially be a conflict, I never felt that I had to make any significant compromises in my quest for learning to obtain high grades. I use the qualifier "significant" because there were a few times when I would tweak my study habits, homework, and test answers to give professors what I thought they wanted. But is that so bad? If you look at a professor as a "customer" who wants a certain "product", then a good business person would deliver what the "customer" wants to get the highest "returns" (grades).


Richard Upton said...

I just got some feedback about my posting for a fellow SCU MBA grad. He mentions that he found that accomplishments seemed to matter more than grades for positions which require an MBA and business experience. This makes certainly makes sense. I know my resume could certainly benefit from a rewriting to focus more on accomplishments than responsibilities. Being that I'm not looking for new opportunities, I haven't put it high on the priority list. But I know I should do it, in case the right opportunity should present itself.

Anonymous said...

I think that if you're taking an MBA and solely focussing on getting the best grades, then perhaps you should re-examine your reasons. I'm taking an MBA because I recognise that I need to broaden my knowledge base, learn how to tackle business problems "properly" and to develop a base of contacts in my new country. Of course, being the perfectionistic competitive nut that I am, I will strive to graduate with a 4.0 but it's not the focal point of my efforts.

Richard Upton said...

I agree with "anonymous" that getting great grades is not the point of an MBA. The primary reason I got an MBA was to learn business skills that I could potentially apply to a number of areas: my current job, future jobs in the same line of work, future jobs in different specializations of business, independent consulting, starting my own company, or teaching.

I wasn't sure exactly which path I would take post-graduation, but I knew that the knowledge gained during the MBA program certainly could help in all of these areas.

It wasn't until I was in Dr. Palmer's class--the one that studied with Peter Drucker--that I learned from him that the MBA program not only provided an opportunity for learning new skills, but also to meet the future leaders of business sitting right next to us.

So I definitely agree that grades aren't the only or most important factor of an MBA. I am just pondering what impact they have. Even if I find that my good grades have no impact in the business world, I'll not regret having strived for them because in doing so I think I learned more without sacrificing getting to know my classmates, and without sacrificing learning. On the contrary, I think striving for good grades helped me build respect and trust with my classmates, and drove me to learn more.

Anonymous said...

what's the cutoff GPA for BGS at SCU?

Richard Upton said...

I have no idea what the minimum GPA is to get into SCU, but I'm pretty sure it dipped during the .com boom (when it seemed everyone was more interested in joining a startup than going to school) and went up during the bust (when jobs dried up). With today's recovery, I'm not sure where it's at.

I can say that when I applied in 2000, an optional essay question on the application provided an opportunity to explain why an undergraduate GPA was low and what would be done to ensure better results in the MBA program.

Anonymous said...

I am taking a very different approach, perhaps the opposite approach. I don't care at all for my grades, as long as I pass and don't have to take classes again. What I do care about is maximizing those other aspects of the MBA which you mentioned. My first goal is to learn as much as possible from my classes, professors, and fellow students in the way of business insight. While the goal of grades and this goal are not that divergent, they can be in little ways. I figure any time saved by not doing things that aren't necessary to my goal, can be spent working on growing my business during the day (my most important endeavor), meeting with professors and talking to them about issues from class that I have particular interest in, and finally, going through group meetings and assignments with the goal of extracting as much insight through discussion and the key exercises. I can't say that one approach is better or worse. But I can say that if I was interviewing someone to work for me--I wouldnt regard a very high grade point average as a good thing. This would indicate that they were too interested in validating their intelligence rather than actually doing things and accomplishing things that would show they could make things happen beyond exercises. I can say this from the perspective of someone who cared deeply for my grades both during undergraduate and a previous graduate degree. I earned very high-grade point averages. But in business, to me, it's different. Particularly in a part-time program, I would wonder why an interviewee focused so much on doing the extra to get from a B+ to an A, when they could have used that time with at their job to do a better job. The business world rewards for different things than an MBA professor. So why spend time practicing what an MBA professor rewards for? I feel those interested in exercises will make good consultants someday. Im sure I'll take some heat for that.